Bird Watching

By Mary Simon

This list of all things ornithological was inspired by my bird watching hobby. We are fortunate we live in an area that has such an abundance of birding locations, as well as the bird watching courses offered at the Botanical Gardens, community colleges, and through municipal ecology centers. I encourage anyone interested in this subject to investigate these sources, but this list will get you started.

  • A Birder's Guide to Everything

    2014 by Rob Meyer

    Birding is the central theme of this coming-of-age story about love and loss. I love this movie because there's a sweet innocence cloaked in the birding theme as the main character, inspired by his deceased mother's stature as a star birder, immerses himself in the hobby.

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  • Illinois Bird Watching : a year-round guide

    2004 by Bill Thompson

    The beauty of this book, which contains over 100 color photographs, is that it's designed specifically for birds in our region. Thompson is a noted expert in his field. He is the editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, a keen birder, and the author of many books. He's also a field trip leader, an ecotourism consultant, the host of the This Birding Life podcast, and a regular speaker on the birding festival circuit.

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  • The Bird Watching Answer Book : everything you need to know to enjoy birds in your backyard and beyond

    2009 by Laura Erickson

    The Cornell Lab of Ornithology gets tens of thousands of bird questions every year. The Lab's science editor, Laura Ericsson, has compiled answers to more than 200 of these common and not-so-common bird questions. The end product is this pocket-sized reference book. There's fun trivia as well as scientifically accurate responses to troubling questions like, "Will birds really explode after eating the rice thrown at weddings?" (No, they won't.)

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  • The Thing with Feathers : the surprising lives of birds and what they reveal about being human

    2014 by Noah K Strycker

    This is one of my favorite bird books because the author does such a great job of explaining how smart birds are and how connected we are to them and they to us. It's funny, insightful, poignant, and educational. Drawing deep from personal experiences, cutting-edge science, and colorful history, Strycker spins captivating stories about birds. It's one of my go-to books when trying to explain why I'm a birder.

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  • The Sibley Guide to Birds

    2014 by David Sibley

    Every birder has their favorite reference book and this one is mine. It provides habitat information as well as voice descriptions for every species. Another thing I love is it provides tips for finding birds in the field and where to look to find a particular species. It also contains maps of ranges, including winter and summer homes, as well as pattern migrations.

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  • The Rarest Bird In the World : the search for the Nechisar nightjar

    2016 by Vernon R Head

    Vernon R. Head's evocative writing lets readers virtually smell the dust and hear the sounds of all creatures (not just birds) in Ethiopia. But his passion for birding and his love of natural environments shines through—think Indiana Jones with birds. Accomplished, vivid, lyrical prose full of wonderment with a great adventure story thrown in for good measure.

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  • Behind the binoculars : interviews with acclaimed birdwatchers

    2015 by Avery, Mark (Mark I.), author.

    What possesses folks to take up birding? Are there specific techniques required to catch a glimpse of that rare one? You'll learn a lot from these pioneers in the birding world. Each person's story is specific to their life choices and motivations which include everything from twitching and low-carbon birding to art and conservation.

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  • Welcome to Subirdia : sharing our neighborhoods with wrens, robins, woodpeckers, and other wildlife

    2014 by John M Marzluff

    I don't know about you but I certainly see enough wild life in my suburban neighborhood to understand the thesis of this book. From skunks and raccoons to coyotes and deer, the North Shore certainly has its share of wildlife and birds play a major role in our habitat. The author provides ten specific strategies that everyone can use to make human environments friendlier to birds.

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  • Why Do Bluebirds Hate Me? : more answers to common and not-so-common questions about birds and birding

    2013 by Mike Connor

    I will admit birders are strange. O'Connor understands birders probably better than any other author. He constantly reminds us birders that it's OK to worry about things such as whether or not we should clean the birdbath or how often we should fill the bird feeder. The answers are sound and I find many to be humorous, especially since almost every birder I know thinks that one species or another has it in for them.

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  • Bird-watcher's bible : a complete treasury--science, know-how, beauty, lore


    First off, this book is beautiful. The photos and illustrations make it a work of art, but it's also loaded with information you'll appreciate as you become more comfortable with bird watching. It includes how-to instructions, top-ten lists, and sidebars with tasty delights for the birder.

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  • The Big Year

    2011 by David Frankel

    You may not be aware but there is such a thing as competitive bird-watching and The Big Year assures us that the "sport" is alive and well. This movie is one of my favorites on the subject. The dirty tricks and camaraderie among the birders; various romances in the field; and peculiar birders make for great comedy. Throw in some great bird photography and you have a fun, family-friendly movie about birding. Starring Jack Black, Steve Martin and that lovable Brit, John Cleese as the narrator. [Note: this film won the enthusiastic support of the Audubon Society.]

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